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Music

The Week in Number Ones: Bad Boy Chiller Crew, The Kid Laroi, and Star Wars make runs

@TylerGolsen

Welcome back to The Week in Number Ones, where all the biggest movers from the US and UK charts get condensed into one article. Last week, we saw Harry Styles make topping the charts look easy with ‘As It Was’, pondered the post-scandal fame of Morgan Wallen, and took a look at when heroes decide to fade away rather than burn out with Oasis’ ‘The Hindu Times’.

This week, we get inducted into the Bad Boy Chiller Crew to check out their hit ‘BMW’ while The Kid Laroi threatens to land another top ten hit with ‘Thousand Miles’. We also take a break from our typical format and remember when America was in such a Star Wars trance that a chintzy version of the film’s title theme rose all the way to number one. All that and more as we round up all the best chart news of the modern-day and recent past.

Current UK Number One: ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles

I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on cars. To try and do so would just make me look foolish, highlighting my lack of knowledge and clear lack of understanding when it comes to the finer details. If it has four wheels and an engine, then it’s good with me. Similarly, I’m not going to pretend that I know all about the bassline music genre that has been bouncing around England over the last few years.

All you need to know is that bassline is a kind of electronic music that often fuses in hip hop and R&B influences. It also has some association with violence, but that’s not relevant to our topic of discussion. Any genre can be violent, regardless of who is playing it and who is listening to it. The important part of the story is that bassline is coming above ground again thanks to the likes of Digga D, ArrDee, and Bad Boy Chiller Crew all landing hits in recent weeks.

What’s the difference between bassline and drill? As a professional music writer working for a British magazine, I am ashamed to admit that I still don’t really know. My lifetime of living in America has made me woefully unprepared to talk about homegrown British music. I only know what I read on the web, see on television, and hear through my speakers. If I had been paying closer attention, I probably would have been able to see Bad Boy Chiller Crew.

Formed at the start of the 2020s, Bad Boy Chiller Crew is somewhere between a parody of a bunch of egotistical English eggheads and an actual group of egotistical English eggheads. Starting off as a comedy collective, BBCC managed to land a six-episode docu-series on ITV2 before releasing their debut mixtape Disrespectful back in February. It’s a wacky and loose ride, and by the end of the 16-song collection, you’ll surely be asking yourself, “Wait, are these guys serious?”

That question still remains unanswered, but you don’t need to analyse anything too hard to see why ‘BMW’ is a hit. Fast-paced yet oddly chill, ‘BMW’ features rapid-fire raps delivered with a surprisingly sparse beat. It’s breezy and mindless like a good pop song should be, even if its hooks are relatively transparent. It’s your standard “brag against a beat” track, one that never seems to lose its popularity with the general public. 

Not surprisingly, ‘BMW’ has completely failed to translate over in America. Maybe in good time the minor invasion that the UK drill scene inspired in America will open the doors for acts like Bad Boy Chiller Crew to make a dent stateside. But with a style so uncompromisingly English, it doesn’t seem like BBCC care to even try and worry about global stardom. Their focus is still small, like showing off the sweet car that gives ‘BMW’ a reason to exist.

UK Singles Top Ten (Week of May 4th, 2022):

  1. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  2. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  3. ‘Go’ – Cat Burns
  4. ‘Baby’ – Aitch/Ashanti
  5. ‘Starlight’ – Dave
  6. ‘Peru’ – Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran
  7. ‘BMW’ – Bad Boy Chiller Crew
  8. ‘Bam Bam’ – Camila Cabello ft. Ed Sheeran 
  9. ‘Where Did You Go’ – Jax Jones ft. MNEK
  10. ‘Make Me Feel Good’ – Belters Only ft. Jazzy

Current US Number One: ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles

Another week and another number one finish for Harry Styles. Things seem to be going fairly well for the true winner of the One Direction break up: a recent headlining appearance at Coachella, an upcoming album, and a new starring role in a film directed by his new girlfriend Olivia Wilde make now a pretty great time to be Harry Styles.

You know who else is pretty well set at the moment: The Kid Laroi. Over the past five years, The Kid Laroi went from a literal pre-teen struggling to meet celebrities in Australia to nabbing a deal with Sony Music Australia, releasing the mixtape F*ck Love featuring collaborations with Machine Gun Kelly and Juice Wrld, and landing a number one hit in the US with his Justin Bieber collaboration ‘Stay’. 

‘Stay’ is actually still on the charts, one of the many songs right now that refuses to leave the top ten along with tracks like Glass Animals’ ‘Heat Waves’ and Bieber’s ‘Ghost’. For a brief spell, it looked as though ‘Stay’ was actually going to return to number one nearly nine months after it first reached the top of the charts back in August of 2021. Now, The Kid Laroi is looking to make another run at the top with his latest single ‘Thousand Miles’.

If you’re on TikTok, which I am not, then you probably already knew that this single was coming thanks to its brief promotional clip that seemed to paint The Kid Laroi’s former manager Scooter Braun in an unfavourable light. But ‘Thousand Miles’ isn’t a diss track – Braun has enough problems getting absolutely destroyed by Taylor Swift every couple of months or so. No, ‘Thousand Miles’ is just another “don’t fall for me, I’m not good for you” anti-love song that Laroi has quite a few of in his discography. 

The song itself isn’t bad, and considering how Laroi brought in pop music tacticians like Louis Bell and Andrew Watt to help bring the song to life, it shouldn’t be. If you happen to like The Kid Laroi’s brand of pop-rap, then there’s no reason why you won’t love ‘Thousand Miles’. But it doesn’t have the immediate hook or earworm qualities of ‘Stay’, so if Laroi really wants a complete takeover of the charts, he’s going to need something a little more powerful than ‘Thousand Miles’.

US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of May 7th, 2022):

  1. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  2. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  3. ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
  4. ‘Big Energy’ – Latto
  5. ‘Enemy’ – Imagine Dragons X JID
  6. ‘Stay’ – The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber
  7. ‘Woman’ – Doja Cat
  8. ‘Ghost’ – Justin Bieber
  9. ‘Super Gremlin’ – Kodak Black
  10. ‘That’s What I Want’ – Lil Nas X

This Week in Number Ones: ‘Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band’ – Meco (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Week of October 1st, 1977)

One of my biggest preoccupations in this column is when novelty songs rise to the top of the charts. Pop music doesn’t always have to be earnest: plenty of goofy tracks like Mungo Cherry’s ‘In The Summertime’ and Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music’ rode their self-aware silliness straight to the number one position. But those songs at least take themselves semi-seriously – I’m more fascinated by the songs that absolutely nobody could take seriously.

These are songs like the Bob the Builder theme song ‘Can We Fix It’, The Simpsons’ ‘Do the Bartman’, Ray Stevens’ ‘The Streak’, Rick Dees’ ‘Disco Duck’, and Mr. Blobby’s ‘Mr. Blobby’, all of which reached number one in either the US or UK. Songs that don’t even attempt to be held in the same regard as the other singles fighting for chart supremacy tend to be highly memorable, but more often than not, they also tend to be highly annoying. Most of the time, these songs have a joke that goes on way too long or a silly voice that begins to get on your nerves after a minute or two. 

Every once in a while, however, novelty songs can be the result of a complete cultural phenomenon. These songs are rarely the phenomenon themselves, but they help illustrate just how popular certain shows, movies, celebrities, video games, or pieces of pop culture can be at certain times. Buckner and Garcia’s ‘Pac-Man Fever’ was a top ten hit in 1981, while Cher’s first single, ‘Ringo, I Love You’, was released at the height of Beatlemania in 1964 as a tribute to everyone’s favourite mop-topped drummer. In 1977, there was no bigger pop culture phenomenon than Star Wars, and on the American pop charts, there were two different versions of the main theme fighting for the number one spot.

The first version was the actual theme that was featured in the movie itself. As the first sounds anyone hears when watching Episode IV: A New Hope, John Williams’ triumphant fanfare became instantly iconic from the second it blares out of the speakers. With a B-side containing the ‘Cantina Theme’, Williams’ theme peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, but it was only the second most popular version of those two songs at the time.

That’s because American record producer Domenico Monardo, better known under the stage name Meco, took a disco mashup of the main title theme and the cantina band theme all the way to number one. Monardo was a session musician who played the trombone and wrote horn arrangements for the likes of Tommy James and Diana Ross. In fact, Monardo’s trombone solo on Ross’ ‘I’m Coming Out’ is probably the instrument’s biggest moment in pop music. Monardo was a respected insider in the music industry, but he wasn’t a pop star – he was a nearly 40-year-old man who happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Monardo rearranged the two pieces into a medley, added some soaring disco beats, brought in a 70-piece orchestra, and created a 15-minute dancefloor-ready version of Star Wars. Monardo and his producers even recreated some of the film’s classic sound effects, like laser beam blasts, lightsaber battles, and R2D2’s signature noises, with synthesisers. With his grand plan now at its conclusion, Monardo threw some anonymous disco-adjacent music and put out an album entitled Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk along with a three-minute cut of the main themes and cantina band theme.

Remarkably, America preferred Monardo’s gaudy disco version over William’s sweeping and orchestral original. Whereas the Star Wars soundtrack went gold (and later platinum), the Meco album and single were each million sellers. Meco’s ‘Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band’ medley reached number one for two weeks in October of 1977, just as Star Wars was reaching the height of its mainstream popularity. Even though Star Wars continued to be one of entertainment’s biggest draws, Meco would largely fall out of the spotlight after his one and only number one. 

It wasn’t for lack of trying though. Monardo continued to put out disco reimaginings of familiar movie soundtracks, including taking on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Wizard of Oz, and Superman. By 1985, disco was dead and so was Monardo’s music career. An attempt to make a comeback during the prequel era of Star Wars never came to fruition, and although Star Wars is as popular as it ever has been, we likely won’t be hearing from Meco any time soon.

Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten (Week of October 1st, 1977)

  1. ‘Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band’ – Meco
  2. ‘Keep It Comin’ Love’ – KC and the Sunshine Band
  3. ‘Don’t Stop’ – Fleetwood Mac
  4. ‘Best of My Love’ – The Emotions
  5. ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ – The Brothers Johnson
  6. ‘Nobody Does It Better’ – Carly Simon
  7. ‘Telephone Line’ – Electric Light Orchestra
  8. ‘That’s Rock ‘N’ Roll – Shaun Cassidy
  9. ‘Cold As Ice’ – Foreigner
  10. ‘I Just Want To Be Your Everything’ – Andy Gibb